Weekly Sports Report

Last week was a busy one in the world of college football. The Heisman Trophy was awarded on Saturday. Multiple head coaching vacancies were both filled and created. Finally, the Division Two and Three championships were played, along with the Division 1-AA semifinals.

USC's junior QB Matt Leinart captured the Heisman Trophy, with a total of 1,325 points. True freshman RB Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma (997), Sooners' 6th year senior QB Jason White – last year's winner (957), junior QB Alex Smith of Utah (635), and sophomore RB Reggie Bush of USC (597) completed the top five.

While I don't have a vote, I'd have somewhat reluctantly put Leinart atop my ballot, followed by Smith, California senior RB J.J. Arrington, and the Oklahoma duo of Peterson and White. I didn't think Bush deserved to make the top 5. While he is likely the most exciting player around, his statistics aren't good enough. Arrington finished a disappointing 8th with just 115 points, behind both Texas senior RB Cedric Benson and Auburn's senior QB Jason Campbell. I was pleased that Jason White didn't win a 2nd consecutive Heisman. White is a fine player, but I thought Larry Fitzgerald should have beaten him out last year. Only Archie Griffin captured two Heisman Trophies, and White isn't nearly in his class. Leinart has stated his intention to return to USC next year, though he would almost certainly be a 1st round NFL draft pick in April. Unless Leinart changes his mind, he'll have a chance to duplicate Griffin's feat. Leinart is the 6th Trojan to win the Heisman Trophy, tying Oklahoma for 2nd place. Notre Dame has the most winners with seven.

In coaching news the biggest development was in South Bend, as Notre Dame finally settled on a replacement for the fired Tyrone Willingham. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was officially hired on Monday. Weis was given a six year contract reportedly worth about $2 million per year. Weis must stay with New England through their playoff run, though. That could make the transition a less than smooth one, especially if the Patriots go all the way to the Super Bowl on February 6th. Weis, a Notre Dame alumnus, had been a finalist for several NFL head coaching positions in the past. With the rather large number of NFL head coaching jobs expected to open up after this season, it was somewhat surprising that Weis elected to head for the pressure cooker that is Notre Dame football. Meanwhile, Ty Willingham landed on his feet in Seattle. He'll be the new coach of the Washington Huskies.

In other coaching news, Walt Harris jumped ship with two years remaining on his contract at Pittsburgh to take over at Stanford. The Panthers reportedly did not offer Harris a raise and contract extension, even after he lead them to their first Big East championship and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Harris does plan to coach Pittsburgh against Utah on New Year's night before settling in to his new office in Palo Alto. Utah's defensive coordinator, Kyle Whittingham, will move up to replace Urban Meyer. The Utes' players pushed for Whittingham to get the job, though he also had an offer from his alma mater, BYU. The Cougars then stayed "in-house" for their new head coach, naming their defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall. Ex-Utah coach Ron McBride will take over at D1-AA Weber State. Completing the "Utah news," Brent Guy is the new head coach at Utah State. Dan Hawkins, head coach of undefeated Boise State, accepted a 5 year contract extension through the 2009 season. Hawkins had been considered a candidate for several other positions, but decided the blue turf of Bronco Stadium was Home Sweet Home. SMU head coach Phil Bennett received a two year contract extension through 2008. Finally, 62 year old Ron Randleman retired after 23 years at the helm of Division 1-AA Sam Houston State following their loss to Montana in the semifinals. Randleman left with 219 wins, the 3rd most in D1-AA history.

Head coaching vacancies still exist at the following schools:
Pittsburgh
Indiana
Mississippi
New Mexico State
San Jose State

As I mentioned earlier, there figure to be at least half a dozen NFL head coaching vacancies after the regular season is completed on January 2nd. Don't be surprised if at least one opening is filled by a current college head coach. The morning line favorite – Nick Saban of LSU.

In the Division Three championship game, the Linfield (Oregon) Wildcats routed the Rowan Profs (New Jersey) 52-0. Valdosta State of Georgia captured the Division Two title with a thrilling 36-31 win over the Pittsburg State (Kansas) Gorillas. The Division 1-AA championship will be decided on Friday night when Montana meets James Madison. The Grizzlies avenged a regular season loss to Sam Houston State on Saturday, trouncing the Bearkats 34-13. The Dukes also avenged a regular season defeat by William & Mary, topping the Tribe 48-34 on Friday night.

Have you ever thought there were a few too many bowl games? Of the 56 bowl teams this season, 13 have a record of 6-5. Five of the twenty-eight bowls "feature" two 6-5 teams. There are only three bowl-eligible teams not heading for a bowl game; Akron, Clemson, and South Carolina. All finished with 6-5 records, but both Clemson and South Carolina would certainly have garnered bowl invitations if the teams hadn't engaged in that major brawl during their final game on November 20th. With the quality of some of these contests, is it any wonder there is so little interest, even among students and alumni?

In a final note, North Carolina State junior RB T.A. McLendon will forego his final year of eligibility and make himself eligible for the 2005 NFL Draft.

There are only two bowl games on tap this week. Here's a preview: TONIGHT

New Orleans Bowl – North Texas State vs. Southern Mississippi. The Eagles finished with a 7-4 mark after opening 0-4 in their out-of-conference schedule. They swept their Sun Belt Conference opponents, and have won 25 straight conference games. North Texas features the running of true freshman Jamario Thomas, the nation's leading rusher with 189.9 yards per game. Thomas also scored 17 TDs. Senior QB Scott Hall doesn't throw often, but is highly efficient when he does. He had 13 TD passes with only 2 interceptions. The Eagles' defense is solid. Southern Mississippi had a 6-5 mark, and with a 5-3 record in CUSA. Their offense greatly depends on the play of junior QB Dustin Almond. Almond can be erratic, but if he has a good game the Golden Eagles should put up some points. Southern Mississippi's defense is led by senior LB Michael Boley. How well Boley and his teammates contain Thomas will likely decide the outcome.

NEXT TUESDAY (DECEMBER 21st)

Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando, Florida) – Syracuse vs. Georgia Tech. The Orange won three of their final four games to become bowl-eligible at 6-5 (4-2 in Big East play). Interestingly, the wins were over bowl-bound Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Boston College while the lone loss came at the hands of lowly Temple. Senior RB Walter Reyes (800 yards and 7 TDs) is expected to return to the Syracuse lineup after missing the last five games with a shoulder injury. The Orange need to establish a ground game against Georgia Tech, since sophomore QB Perry Patterson has failed to produce a consistent passing attack. The Yellow Jackets also finished with a 6-5 mark, including a 4-4 record in the ACC. Sophomore QB Reggie Ball has had an up and down year for Georgia Tech. He's thrown for 1,940 yards and 14 TDs, but his completion percentage is under 50%. He's also been prone to turnovers. Junior RB P. J. Daniels is the Yellow Jackets' main running threat. Defensively, Georgia Tech has been excellent. They rank 19th in rushing defense and 21st in pass defense. This figures to be a low-scoring game with turnovers making the difference.

Next week, I'll preview the bowl games scheduled for December 22nd through 28th plus review the news of the week.


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